Way back in the day, I developed a vegan roast potatoes recipe specifically for crispy Kipfler potatoes. This was before I fully appreciated the starchy to waxy potato spectrum. I love that recipe and I use the method all the time, but today I wanted to chat all things crispy roast potatoes, including the best varieties for the task.
These potatoes are crispy, crunchy and golden. Potentially my favourite part, though, is that the cold ones don’t get that dry, leathery mouthfeel to them. They are delicious cold as well as hot, which is rare for a roasted potato. They use very ingredients and are naturally vegan and gluten free. These are crunchy, crisp oven roasted potatoes at their best.
Vegan roast potatoes
These potatoes utilise a few key steps to keep them fluffy on the inside and shatteringly crisp on the outside. Boiling them in baking soda creates a slurry of potato starch around each potato. Which brings us to the next step: giving them a good shake once boiled and steam dried. This shaking will create that starchy crust, which will become crisp once it hits the hot oil we have preheated.
A lot of festive roast potatoes use animal fat for flavour and browning, but these potatoes use vegetable oil. It is has a high smoke point, is very accessible and makes these potatoes suitable for vegetarian and vegan diners.
The crispy vegan roast potatoes cheat sheet
Boil the potatoes in heavily salted water with added baking soda. This creates fluffy, well flavoured potato interiors. The baking soda breaks down the potato, creating craggy, starchy edges that crisp up like a dream.
The potatoes should be 90% cooked through when you retrieve them from the water. You want them to be cooked, but not falling apart.
Preheat the oven and the oil. Dropping potatoes into hot oil creates a super crispy crust right from the get-go. Five minutes at 200C is plenty (watch your eyes when you open the oven, hot oil stings).
Don’t overcrowd the potatoes or the oven. Overcrowding = steam = soggy potatoes that are covered in oil.
Be patient with oven time, and turn them to crisp up all sides. You can’t put a timer on the perfect potato.
Choosing the potatoes for your vegan roast potatoes
A good variety of potato to choose for crispy roast potatoes is an all rounder. These potatoes are the best of both worlds – they are starchy enough to result in a fluffy potato interior, but waxy enough not to turn to mash after boiling and roasting.
The best and most easily available varieties of all rounder potatoes will vary country to country. In Australia, the Sebago (also called white potatoes at the supermarket) is very commonly sold. It’s not necessarily my number one, but it is easily accessible.
Other all rounder or roast appropriate varieties in Australia are:
- King Edward
Step 1: boiling your potatoes
After you’ve scrubbed your potatoes, it’s time to boil them. Par boiling the potatoes does a few things. Firstly, it introduces the alkaline ingredient (baking soda) to the potatoes. As per this Serious Eats article, the baking soda breaks down the edges of the potato, which will create a starchy slurry that crisps up like a charm in the oven. Think of crispy tofu – the corn flour creates a crispy, shattering crunch one cooked. Same goes for these potatoes.
To parboil your potatoes, bring a large pot of very well salted water to the boil. The baking soda (very) temporarily fizzes up when you add it, so make sure to leave enough room for that. Once the water is boiling, add that baking soda and the potatoes. Cook them until they are 80% done, and a knife slides through with just a bit of resistance. Gently move them around in the water if some aren’t cooked while some are falling apart. Remove any that are done before the rest.
Step 2: Getting your potatoes ready for the oven
Once your potatoes are done, it’s time to strain them and allow them to steam dry. Steam drying is basically just the potatoes drying off in their own heat – you don’t need to do anything here.
When the potatoes are slightly cooler, slice them into bite sized chunks as you see fit. I like smaller ones for a higher crisp to fluffy innard ratio, but you can cut them how you prefer. I also love crispy potato skins and I do recommend keeping them on here.
The (second) last trick of the day is to add 2 tablespoons (40ml) of vegetable oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a large mixing bowl. You will need a plate or a tray to cover the mouth of the bowl completely as you shake the potatoes, so choose accordingly. Adding oil here will coat the tops of the potatoes so they don’t become leathery in the oven.
Add the chopped potatoes to the bowl and pop the ‘lid’ on. Give them a couple of vigorous shakes, then assess. The potatoes should be lightly covered in a mash potato looking starch. This will crisp up in the oven beautifully. You don’t want the potatoes to fall apart, but you do want a decent amount of this mash potato starch coating. Over time you’ll learn how much of if you prefer.
Yes, more oil. The reason we add oil to the potatoes in the bowl is to ensure that the tops of the potatoes don’t become leathery and dry before we turn them. It’s precarious and difficult to baste the tops in the hot oil as you place the potatoes on the tray. Yes, I have tried it. This way, we get all the benefits of the hot oil as well as non-leathery potato tops.
All up, I find you can get away with 6 tablespoons of oil total. This is just under 1/2 an Australian cup. We’re making crispy potatoes, I’m not even going to justify the oil.
On the note of oil, I tend to use vegetable oil here. It has a higher smoke point and is accessible. It’s also (obviously) vegan.
Step 3: Preheating the oven and the oil
Next up, preheating the oil. Preheating the oil is responsible for creating a shatteringly crisp crust upon the potatoes’ entry into the oven. It ensures that the potato begins to crispy immediately, as opposed to soaking up oil. If you put the potatoes into the oven on a cold oven tray with cold oil, your spuds won’t be nearly as crispy. I like to preheat my oil for 5 or so minutes.
Step 4: baking the potatoes
Whenever you open an oven with hot oil, be careful of your eyes. Hot oil stings, and if you’re caught off guard it is never fun. Make sure the tray of hot oil has an easy, accessible place to rest before you begin. Then, working quickly, remove the oven tray and gently place the potatoes in the oil. It’s important to give them room and not overcrowd the pan – this will result in less crispy potatoes. It’s also important not to cook anything else in the oven while doing the potatoes. Too much food in the oven will create steam, which is the enemy of crispiness.
Give the bottom of the potatoes a chance to crisp up in the oven before turning them. Baste any dry looking ones with oil from the tray, and continue baking until all sides are golden.
TLDR: The how and why of crispy roast potatoes
Choosing the right potato means you will have a fluffy inside and a crispy outside. Some potatoes are more prone to becoming mash (like a starchy variety) and some are too waxy to have fluffy innards.
The baking soda breaks down the pectin in the potato, which degrades the flesh to form a sort of starch slurry. This starchy slurry will crisp up like a dream in the oven.
Shaking the potatoes in a salty oil solution does two things. Firstly, it coats the potatoes in a little oil so that the tops don’t burn or become leathery as they bake. It also adds flavour. Secondly, shaking up the potatoes encourages the slurry to form. It also creates cragged edges that will become nice and crispy.
Preheating the oil in the oven means that the potatoes will form a crispy golden crust the minute they hit the oven. Potatoes put into cold oil can soak some of it up, whereas these will crisp up immediately.
More delicious potato recipes
- These crispy roast potatoes with garlic infused chilli oil and a punchy mustard yoghurt.
- FODMAP friendly leek and potato soup.
- Vegan bangers and mash, complete with homemade sausages and vegan gravy
- The crispy Kipflers that started me off on my crispy roast potato journey.
- These gluten free Aloo Paratha
- An OG classic, these salt and vinegar roasted potatoes
Crispy roast potatoes recipe
- Plenty of salt to boil the potatoes
- 1 teaspoon baking soda also known as bi-carb soda
- 1 kg all-rounder potatoes
- 2 tablespoons (40ml) vegetable or high smoke point oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 4-5 tablespoons (80-100ml) vegetable or high smoke point oil to coat the base of a large baking tray
- Fine salt to finish
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Add 4-5 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the base of a large, sturdy baking tray and move the tray around to ensure the entire base is coated.
- Bring a large pot of well salted water to the boil. Use your largest to ensure there is some wiggle room – the baking soda will bubble up a little when you add it.
- Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda. When the bubbles subside, add the potatoes. Boil until the potatoes are about 90% cooked through. A knife should slide through the potato with just a little bit of resistance.
- Retrieve the potatoes from the water and allow to dry off for a few minutes.
- Place your tray with oil into the oven to preheat for five minutes.
- Slice the potatoes into your preferred size, but not smaller than a 50c coin. Really small pieces of potato tend to break up in the next stage, so err on the side of caution. I keep the skin on my potatoes and I recommend you do too.
- Whisk the 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. This bowl will need a ‘lid’ so make sure you have a plate or a tray large enough to cover the mouth of the bowl. You could also do this in a medium/large container if you’d prefer.
- Add the potatoes and give them 2-3 vigorous shakes, then assess. A mash potato like starchy slurry should have formed or be forming on the surface. If not, continue to shake until it does. You don’t want the potatoes to break up into mash, but you do want a decent amount of slurry on each potato. This is what will go so crispy in the oven.
- Once you’re happy with the look of the potatoes, very carefully take the tray out of hot oil out of the oven. I open my oven door from the side to ensure I don’t get hot oil eye burn. Nothin’ worse.
- Working quickly, use tongs to add the potatoes to the hot oil. They should sizzle significantly on impact. Spread them out, then pop them quickly back into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then use tongs to flip the potatoes over. The bottoms should be golden brown. Cook for another 20 minutes or until both sides are golden, crispy and delicious. Remove the potatoes from the tray and give them a final sprinkle of salt while they’re hot, as the salt will cling to the oil.
- Serve hot, but the leftovers are significantly less leathery than other crispy potatoes.
- Make sure you choose a good all rounder variety of potato for this recipe. See the body of the post or Google the best varieties where you live.
- Baking soda is different from baking powder. The two are not interchangeable here – you need baking soda for this recipe.
- Don’t try and do anything experimental like add vinegar to the boiling water. You run the risk of setting off the baking soda and it boiling over.
- 1kg = 2.2lb
- 2 tablespoons = 2 1/2 tablespoons
- 4-5 tablespoons = 1/3 – 1/2 cup